Gentoo: FluxBox replaces GNOME
Because it has the 2 things I need[period]
When starting with Gentoo, I just installed Gnome because I was familiar with it.
It was nice, but wasn’t as integrated into the system as for example in Ubuntu (Ubuntu uses Unity, no longer Gnome).
Didn’t bother me much, I only played around with the keyboard configuration, didn’t need all the rest for Gentoo.
But then, why have a full Gnome installation when I just need something to:
- Manage windows of open programs
- Some menu to open programs
What? … Not more?
The former Windows user in me is still running amok … what will blink when the system thinks it should … where will be the hidden menu XY with very important setting Z … I am sooo good at finding all these botchy details …
But the Gentoo user has him boxed in his padded room:
All we need for Gentoo is a terminal and a browser. It’s all in text-files (editor=vim), finding/handling them is mostly easier than all the Windows-menus.
All that Gnome can do is alter the behaviour of the X-server … which would mean something is wrong or missing there. – Then it should be fixed there!
Lightweight Desktop Environments (DE)
Wikipedia on Desktop Environments:
These GUIs help the user in easily accessing, configuring, and modifying many important and frequently accessed specific operating system (OS) features.
Both aim at being lightweight or even minimal.
Even less: Plain Window Managers (WM)
Standard WM of the X window system, used in Gentoos X Server Configuration HOWTO to test basic X server.
A Stacking Window Manager
All these alternatives restrict their configuration on themselves, more or less, and leave the rest to the system.
Configuration of the light desktop environments is in GUIs, they are easy to understand and looks are not to bad – I could probably give them to my kids.
Surprisingly, Fluxbox is the winner to me, even though the first look was not appealing – default style is rather bad.
But it does so little … it has 1 menu and the styles are in “/FluxBox Menu/Styles” … (style=Operation)
Then auto-generate the menu – rtfm …
Configuration is about the simplest I can imagine.
The menu is in short one text-file, the keyboard-shortcut in another. Both are nicely commented … within minutes I knew more about useful window-shortcuts than I ever knew in Windows! And changing them is easy, as well as the menu!
Window Management, keyboard shortcuts are a blast. Move a window to left/right screen edge … and you’re in adjacent workspace with the window. Scroll-wheel on desktop changes workspace, very easy and useful shortcuts – wow!
Example: 3 application-windows can be glued together with tabs … like tabs in a browser. This is new to me and absolutely cool!
Looks are not very pretty yet. I use style=Operation and rounded the edges (append to /usr/share/fluxbox/styles/Operation as in rounded corners).
Most of the styles are useless imho, they use wild color combinations which make it hard to read.
But I’ve seen pictures of rather pretty desktops and I only just installed it!
Documentation seems sparse. But it does so little, there’s just not much to document. Seems even hard to find much more than the default manual in the web. But that manual seems complete, the default config files have many (generated?) explanation-comments, so it’s a slight plus.
Toolbar is to small somehow. It was easy to change the look by menu, but I want it thicker and nicer. But the Fluxbox menu opens on right-click desktop, so there may be no need for a fat toolbar (with a “Start”-button), I haven’t bothered yet.
I’m giving Fluxbox a go, altering another Gentoo installation at the moment to be solely Fluxbox based, even there leaving away unneeded stuff like a “background-image manager”.
In fact, any Desktop Environment beyond a Window Manager seems to be exactly what I don’t need … in fact don’t want for Gentoo. I’m free of having to know my way through GUI system menus!